Victoria Grizzlies fill netminder vacancy with Ontario native Howe

The No. 1 item on Victoria Grizzlies general manager and head coach Craig Didmon’s to-do list this off-season is to find a No. 1 goaltender.

He might already be able to check that one off.

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The Grizzlies announced Tuesday they have signed sought-after netminder Joe Howe out of Upper Canada College in Ontario.

Howe, who turns 18 in June, is coming off a couple of strong seasons at Upper Canada College and turned down the Barrie Colts, who selected him in the 2017 Ontario Hockey League draft, to come west into the Grizzlies’ den.

“I’ve had my mind set on playing NCAA Div. 1 hockey for a while now so when the Grizzlies came calling I didn’t hesitate,” said Howe, who stands 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds and was named Upper Canada College team MVP this season.

“I already know [Grizzlies forwards] Eddie [Yan] and Alex [Newhook] and they raved about the organization and the city, so I went for a visit last fall and loved the rink and the city so it was really a no-brainer.”

The Grizzlies lost both of this year’s goaltenders as 20-year-old Kurtis Chapman graduated and 19-year-old Zack Rose moves on to NCAA hockey at Bowling Green University. So Didmon has been manning the phones in search of two netminders as the team looks to retool after making the B.C. Hockey League’s final four this season.

“Joe has good size, is very athletic and protects his net and crease area well,” said Didmon, whose club was eliminated in the third round of the BCHL playoffs by the eventual-champion Prince George Spruce Kings.

“He has also won in the past so we like that he brings that experience to our club, so he’s more than ready to step in and be a dominant goalie in our league.”

Howe was born in Leicester, England, before his family moved to Ontario when he was three years old. After a strong Midget season for the Toronto Junior Canadiens, he moved on to Upper Canada College where he played against the likes of Newhook (St. Andrew’s College) and Alex Campbell (Stanstead College), who are expected to be selected early in June’s NHL draft in Vancouver.

This season, Howe led his team to the semifinals at the national championship before bowing out to St. Andrew’s.

“I feel I had a strong season and I’m ready for the next level,” said Howe.

“I’ve heard the BCHL is a fast, offensive league but I think I bring speed post-to-post and I can handle the puck well, so I’m looking forward to having a good season in Victoria.”

Howe had several Junior A opportunities in his home province but chose to head west to help chase down that NCAA dream.

“I asked around and everyone kept telling me, if you want to play in Junior A, the BCHL is the place to be, and you can’t ask for a better city to play in than Victoria.”

bdrewry@timescolonist.com

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